Spires trying to make up for lost time

Jason Brown
The Leavenworth Times

Uncertainty has defined the University of Saint Mary men’s basketball season as the Spires have been at the whim of the COVID-19 pandemic since their season began in October. 

At 0-6, the Spires missed over two months of competition and practices before returning to the gym as a team in January. Head coach Troy Brown said the toughest part of the season has been not knowing what’s coming next as well as not having ample time to truly prepare to compete.

“The biggest challenge is the drastic change in schedule not knowing if you’re practicing or playing from day-to-day,” he said. “It’s been extremely hard to develop any chemistry or consistency with our players. We’ve missed a total of 48 scheduled practices since October. We’ve only played five games when the rest of our league has played around 15 or so.”

Brown said the team was unable to gather for any practices during the two-month layoff and was only able to work on strength and conditioning workouts from the coaching staff.

The lack of practice and preparation has forced the Spires to abandon normal routines of scouting opponents heavily and focus on improving themselves to build more chemistry. 

“We haven’t spent a lot of time with scouts and tendencies of our opponents during the week and leading up to games,” Brown said. “We are more concerned about ourselves and what we need to do to get a little bit better every day.”

The Spires are led by senior guard Donovan Sinegal, who is averaging over 17 points per game. 

Brown said the team is getting a boost from a strong freshman class as well. 

“Che Smith is our second-leading scorer and rebounder,” Brown said. “Sam Billimon has been impressive and Macio Moananu has shown his knack to do the little things like rebound and defend. All three have played more than 20 minutes a game as freshmen.”

Even though the Spires have not gotten in the win column yet this season, Brown is preaching a consistent message of improvement.

“I just keep telling them we need to get a little bit better every day,” he said. “Right now, it’s focusing on the little things like making sure our energy level is where it needs to be successful.”

Brown said he is hopeful for the future with a young core of players forming for the next couple of seasons.

“Going into next year our main focus is adding length and size,” he said. “We have a strong nucleus of young players which I’m really excited about and the core upperclassman have been together for a couple of years now. The future is bright, we just got to get through this year.”